She may not look familiar to a Capitol populated by a lobbying corps dominated by young whippersnappers and term-limited lawmakers.
But Shirley Sechler, who in the early 90s worked in the Capitol in lobbyist registration and then went on to work for the Florida Bar, likely gained a huge following after the 92-year-old’s dramatic rescue in Houston went viral on social media this week.
In a telephone conversation today, the effervescent Miss Shirley described her rescue and the conditions that finally forced her out of her Houston home.
“I’m so grateful to be out of that fright, fright, fright. It was awful,” she said Friday.
Sechler and her son, Brad, refused to leave their home even as the rising waters crept up the street, inundating the driveway.
“The experience. The experience was watching the water come up into the driveway, and watching our street turn into a lake. And then every day we would monitor the height of the water in the driveway and then we would see it was halfway up to the mailbox,” she said from her daughter-in-law’s house in a dry part of Houston.
Over the days, numerous men — including the National Guard, according to Sechler — urged her to evacuate.
“I kept steadfastly refusing. Because it’s my house. I didn’t want to go,” she told us Friday. “But the water came higher and higher and I woke up in the morning and there’s the water coming up to the edge of the garage door. It was just too much. And another man came in and said you’ve got to get out of here.”
Sechler said she continued to refuse “but this man was so persuasive” that she finally relented.
“Then the boats came,” she said, adding that the rescue effort was complicated because “I can hardly walk and I can’t bend very well.”
The flat-bottom boats were a contrast to Sechler’s vision of the “big, beautiful pleasure boats” she imagined would transport her to safety.
That’s another whole story, the rescue effort. Because I can hardly walk and I can’t bend very well.
While the rescue crafts may have let her down, the rescuers didn’t.
“All these wonderful men, wonderful, big smiling men, told me don’t worry, hold on,” she told us.
After the boat ride, Sechler was lifted onto a pickup truck.
“There were endless volunteers, wonderful, smiling helpful, muscled,” she said, causing us to imagine her eyes twinkling as she recalled the rescue.
Sechler, who moved to Houston nearly two decades ago, laughed when asked about her work in the Capitol.
“I remember that fourth floor. I was so stunned and amazed when I first went there at the noise, the activity, the clamor,” she said.
Sechler said she has no idea what shape her house is in, but she has no plans to leave the water-ravaged city.
“Of course I’ll stay in Houston. My kids are here. Where would I go?” she said.